Ballet Dancing Cats - a work-in-progress

I was almost finished writing a very boring blog, updating everyone on my BlueHost subscription, my new domain
(which has absolutely nothing uploaded to it yet, so don’t bother heading over there!), and my latest digital work-in-progress for my daughter Mia (pictured above).

I went online to grab a URL I planned to link to an image, and decided to check my e-mail for the fourteenth time… I discovered an alert to a new blog comment, a wonderful bit of praise by artist Jessica Doyle for my last blog, entitled Reflecting on Respect. It was one of those introspective posts that doesn’t promote a product, give an informative summary of my situation, or serve any real purpose except to unclutter my mind a bit by scattering my thoughts out into the virtual winds.
Perhaps a seed will fall and take root, and somewhere in webland, another crazy-cat-artist will emerge – stretching her claws and yawning in flames.

Aside from the obvious appreciation I felt, knowing that she read and enjoyed my blog… Jess touched upon something personal, and most likely, she did it
unknowingly. She stated: “Your humanity, sense of who you are and love for life shines through..”

I’ve been struggling with the desire to please the crowds VS living honestly for years…
The knowing of oneself, translated into Latin as “Nosce Te Ipsum”, has been a proverb since the early civilizations of mankind… apparently everyone suffers from a lack of self-integrity at one point or another. 😛

It wasn’t always an issue for me. In fact, as a child I had a profound sense of self and a disdain for conformity. My earliest childhood acquaintances, who have
recently crossed paths with me again on Facebook, have made comments to the effect “Geez, Tara, you haven’t changed a bit since 8th grade”.
They aren’t referring to my impressive ability to age slowly.. hehe … rather, my profile picture displaying Dominic, the fire-breathing cat. That Cat-Connection is
“the Tara” everyone remembers.

As a kid, I developed an affinity with my family’s pet cats.. my father’s calico, Hedy, was already a member of the household when I was born. She became a mentor for an imaginative 4-year-old, teaching me to stalk bugs, to sleep curled in the sun, to lick milk from a bowl, to climb trees and scratch furniture. Anthropomorphic cartoons like “The Thundercats” and “The Secret of NIMH” might’ve contributed slightly to my belief that humans and animals could share similar spirits… but I think being an only child, spending many hours playing alone, my obsession with being feline came primarily from enjoying a cat’s companionship.
Pretending to be an animal in human clothing, or having cat-blood, eventually became more than just a game to amuse myself. I convinced myself that it was a truth, and my willingness to defend the belief in animal spirits put me at a disadvantage in my Christian environment. In my soul, I was connected to each cat I’d known and loved. No Scripture could dissuade me to think otherwise; they were simply unaware of the possibility. An oversight Jesus failed to mention. 😛

Not one to practice my beliefs in secret, I informed anyone and everyone that I was, in fact, a cat.
I behaved like a cat in public.
I hissed at my enemies and made scratching movements with my hind leg to essentially “bury them” like stinky feces. You can imagine what these antics did to my reputation! 😉
I had a few friends who were a bit quirky in their own right, but the majority of my classmates and neighbors thought I was simply an odd-ball, and kids can be
merciless towards peers. I was the scapegoat… if someone felt insecure, they could start poking fun at ME, and the whole class would laugh along with them. Perhaps friendships developed in the locker room over witty jokes, of which I was the unfortunate subject… it gives me warm fuzzy feelings to think I might’ve set a standard, “Well, at least I’m not THAT weird!”

My 3rd grade teacher tried to give helpful advice –
“You know, honey, if you stopped acting like a cat, they wouldn’t tease you. You’d have many more friends.”
I told her bluntly that any friend worth having, should accept me as I am. Pretty self-confidant for an 8-year-old, huh.

A few years later, when puberty rocked our worlds, and girls started noticing boys and wearing make-up and V-neck sweaters… I was developing as a young lady who devoured fantasy novels and the notion of other planets inhabited by anthropomorphic creatures. The more I read books and watched movies, I realized that other people shared my point of view.. and I wasn’t quite so strange afterall.
It fueled my confidence to reject a male classmate’s suggestion that I would be more likely to score a date if I stopped acting like a cat. My words to him echoed
my earlier rebuttal of the teacher:
“If a guy really liked me, he wouldn’t ask me to change. I’m not going to waste my time with anyone who doesn’t accept me.”

… I walked this earth for a time, wrapped in a cocoon of reclusive independence, neither seeking popularity nor acknowledging my influence over others.
Until my family moved to a different state, forcing me to attend a new school and reestablish my identity to a whole new group of strangers. I made the decision to tone down the “cat thing” in public, and probably came across as an average teenager, albeit a bit odd in other ways…

I was drawn towards the geeks and rejects who made the effort to dig deep enough into me and not judge what they found.
These weren’t the “Goths”, or the “Punks”, or the popular “anti-conformity” groups who thought that by emulating Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp, they were “unique”.
Nor were they the “Retro-Hippies” who smoked pot and preached acceptance, or the abstract “Artist” types who took themselves too seriously.
I was intellectual, but not a member of the “Rich Preppy” circle that hosted alcohol parties when their trusting parents left them alone for the weekend.
The kids I hung out with could actually be considered misfits, because we didn’t really belong in any group, although many were band members and thespians.

I couldn’t call myself popular, but as more people began to accept and acknowledge me, I felt what can only be described as an addiction to gain more admirers and “fans”. I actively sought opportunities to display my talents, exercise my wit, flaunt my charms, and find validation.

In and of itself, being sought after and appreciated isn’t a bad thing. Every artist who promotes him or herself through galleries, concerts, fairs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is trying to connect with an audience of approving people willing to buy into their image.
However, I began to lose sight of what made me, well… me. The more I suppressed the less favorable aspects of my personality, the more dissatisfied I felt with my life, my friendships, and the pressures of living up to expectations.

I’ve spent the last 4 years attempting to unravel the mess I’ve made, judging each facet individually to separate the real self from the perceived self. I’ve endured many moments where my faith and beliefs were put under scrutiny, forced to answer my own doubts and grow stronger as a result. I recently decided that I’d finally come to that point of self-acceptance once again, after having stepped out of the limelight to spent some quality time surrounded by a few close friends and new babies, who are blessedly non-judgemental. LOL

Unfortunately, with my fledgling art business and a new fan base growing, I’ve put myself in the position once again where I find myself constantly wondering “What do my followers want?”:
Will they enjoy reading this blog? Were they expecting a new painting for Valentine’s Day, or activity in my Etsy shop? Will they be disappointed if I create a religious parody – like a Madonna cat holding a bird in swaddling clothes? How many people did I offend with my portrait of Kittney?

This is who I am… one minute, I’m illustrating portraits of Victorian gentlemen… the next moment, I’m fantasizing about cats wearing Vegas show-girl costumes and nipple tassels. 😛

I honestly know that I wouldn’t last 10 minutes as a super-famous celebrity, before throwing in the towel, changing my name, and moving to a cabin in the woods. Sometimes the fear of disappointing or offending a potential fan is paralyzing. I’m not quite sure what The Image is that I’ve established or where the boundaries are, but I’m dying to tear them down and scream “Let me BE who I am!”
Let my artwork be honest, served from an inspired place in my soul, and not merely fast-food-in-a-greasy-bag for the masses.

I’ll sign off with this flashback to the 1990’s…click to view…because I’m feeling a bit bitchy tonight. 😉

“I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner and a saint, I do not feel ashamed…” – Meredith Brooks.